When gamer Ebby [his gaming handle] met his online friend Matthew seven years ago through League of Legends streamer Trick2g’s Twitch channel, they became close, playing together and having side conversations about gaming and other aspects of their lives — like chatting with a friend at a bar.
When Ebby found out Matthew had died of COVID, he rekindled his relationship with some of their mutual friends within the Trick2g community to let them know of Matthew’s passing. Since then, they’ve been playing games occasionally, and Ebby says it has helped them process their grief.
“Over time, I’ve met a lot of people gaming through Twitch,” Ebby says. “I can’t stress enough how much it has influenced my life.”
In the past nearly two years checkered with loss, isolation, and uncertainty, the gaming industry saw a huge spike, as millions of people turned to game play for connection, distraction, comfort, and control. Kurt Dean Squire, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who researches how video games can positively impact students and young people, noticed new kinds of gamers emerging during the pandemic, such as kids gaming with friends beyond their immediate circles. “I see a lot of kids playing games as a primary form of social bonding and cohesion,” he says.